…my true love gave to me: a skulk of foxes for the tree.

For the past nine years (counting this one), a Christmas ornament swap has been hosted on Craftster.  Charmingly dubbed a Sweat Shoppe swap, it functions like a cross between those holiday cookie exchanges and a chain letter: you sign up for either three or six partners, make three or six like ornaments to send off, and receive ornaments from either three or six different people.  Because you’re not crafting something specifically for someone, many participants made their ornaments well in advance and wait for sign-ups to begin.

I had been tempted by it in the past, but never had anything made ahead of time and never had time to start anything once sign-ups began.  This year, some magical wave of forethought seized me, and I started my sewing early.  When sign-ups hit, I was ready.  I had found this pattern by Maisie Moo on Etsy, and gave it the old college try to make sure it would turn out, be an appropriate size, etc.

I named him Les, and he has a home on my Christmas tree. 🙂  I’m glad I practiced on him, because it gave me a chance to tweak the instructions a bit.  Rather than cut out teeny, tiny black eyes from felt, I traced them onto the white pieces and embroidered them using raised satin stitch.  I also used finer stitches than the instructional photos showed.  And…I’m not sure how the scarf, at the length prescribed by the pattern, was supposed to wrap around his throat and have a tail to fringe – so I made it about 1 1/2 times as long so that I had a little room to play with.

Because I have apparently learned my limits after many, many years of Craftmas (official and unofficial), I signed up for three partners and not six, tempting though that was.  These little guys were so much fun to stitch up!

I named them Redd, Michael J., and Renard – just think about that for a sec – and all three have made it to their new homes, despite the best efforts of the postal service to waylay them.

And now that they’re finished, and I should be thinking about the zillion other things I need to get done before Christmas, I can’t help but think what sort of ornaments to offer next year…

EDIT: By popular request, here’s what I got in return.

A fabric tree from Alberta.  (Front and back.)

A cozy cardinal birdhouse from Massachusetts.

A shaker ornament from Pennsylvania – the tree was up by the time the postal system finally decided to get it to me, so it got photographed in its natural habitat. 😉

Thanks for looking! 🙂

Yes, that’s a bad pun, if it even qualifies as one.  (I’m sure dads the world over are shaking their heads and taking an extra step away from me: “We’d never make a joke that bad.”)

This is just a short one, because I have no real backstory for this, but: just in time for Halloween, I managed to complete “Cat in the Moon” by Handblessings.

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This stitched up fairly quickly thanks to the negative space for the moon and the half-cross stitch.  I debated leaving the witch charm off because its shiny silver-like finish detracted (in my opinion) from the cat and everything else.  In the end, I painted on a thin coat of black enamel paint: light enough that you can still see the relief on the charm, but dark enough to almost “match”.  It’s just a shade larger than 4″ square, and makes an excellent addition to my minimalist Halloween décor.

Thanks for looking – I hope everyone’s having a happy Halloween! 🙂

Where my witches at?!

September 30, 2018

I’ll skip the whole “Ooh, Halloween!” preamble, because anyone who’s been reading this for a while knows how I feel about it (and if you don’t, check the Halloween tag).  Spoiler alert: I love it!  Obviously, joining the 2018 iteration of the Vintage Halloween Swap on Craftster was a no-brainer.  My partner has received her package, so I figured it was safe to post this now.

My partner’s era of choice was the 1920s-1930s, and “witches” was among her favourite themes.  This might have pushed me just a wee bit outside my comfort zone – my Halloween aesthetic runs toward “cute” and “cats”, and is just a bit more modern – but one of the fun aspects of swaps is trying something you might not ordinarily try.  An Etsy search for “1930s Halloween” yielded, among other things, a high-quality jpeg version of this image:

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(This, of course, is a low-quality image courtesy of a Google search.)

She was Art Deco-y and fun, and I decided to interpret her in embroidery.  Using my lightbox, I traced the basic outline in pencil before going over those lines with a transfer pen.  Once the design was transferred to my fabric, I colour-tinted the image before starting the actual embroidery.

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Naturally, I didn’t think to take a picture after transferring and before tinting.  This will be a recurring theme.

After setting the crayon, I used a simple backstitch to define most of the image – I had tried stem stitch, because I think it permits more gentle curvature, but it was proving to be too bulky and weird.  I used a bit of satin stitch on the witch’s eyes and mouth, an some French knots to create the polka-dot pattern on her sleeve.

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Her hands in the original image reminded me of a Barbie doll’s steel-fork fingers, so I attempted to humanize her a little bit.  Her overall look reminded me of something, too, but I couldn’t figure out what for the longest time, until it hit me: she’s a tad Claudette Colbert-ish,  I think.  Same era, same shot-from-the-left, same well-defined lips…

That’s a regular wood/bamboo embroidery hoop she’s framed in (5″), painted black to really make the colours pop.

When I had gone to Michael’s to pick up the fabric, floss, and hoop for her, I saw a display of unfinished wooden light-up decorations, and lo, they had a witch one.

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It did not occur to me to take a “before” picture until after I had started applying yellow paint – I told you that was a recurring issue.

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Even after one coat of craft acrylic, she looked pretty good, but this picture definitely showed me the need for a second coat – and that I had to paint the edges black as well.

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice – lit up in a dark room, it positively glows.

Consider Halloween crafting season to be officially underway – thanks for looking! 🙂

Remember my twinchies?  Gah, that seems like forever ago.  (“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.” – Kermit the Frog)

Anyway, I had so much fun making them that when another round of the twinchie swap appeared on Craftster, with send-outs in September, joining in was a no-brainer.  I might be a bit late in posting these, but think of them as undiscovered gems.

My partner had a variety of themes offered as suggestions, and I was thisclose to running with Bob’s Burgers – can’t you just picture Louise’s bunny ears immortalized in four square inches of felt?! – when I saw that she also had Muppets on her list.  In that moment, the first coherent thought in my brain was, “Beaker!”

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That was followed a split-second later by, “Bunsen!”

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It wasn’t until I began trawling the internet for source images to use, scrolling past picture after picture of Dr. Honeydew, that I realized with a start that he bears a striking resemblance to my dad’s old boss, only slightly more green.  I tried to find a picture of him, but came up empty-handed, so you’ll have to take my word on this.

With Bunsen n’ Beaker done, how could I round out my quartet?  Statler and Waldorf would have been fun, and practically begged to have a note included in my swap package complaining about what terrible needlework this was (“Ha ha ha!”), but they didn’t feel as iconic to me as some of the other Muppets.

Iconic Muppet?  Why, that would be…

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Miss Piggy was the most challenging of the four, I found.  Her various pieces felt a bit more jigsaw-y to me than the others, and trying to capture that heavy-lidded look on a very small canvas wasn’t easy.  But the sparkly fuchsia background seems perfect for the self-proclaimed star of the show, and there’s a joke in there somewhere about casting one’s pearls before swine, but I haven’t found it…  (Comments welcome below.)

Knowing that my partner had already received a Kermit twinchie in the previous round, I couldn’t grab for the low-hanging fruit for my last piece.  Instead…drumroll, please…

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Big Bird!  Stitching him up made me so happy!  The bright yellow and blue felt, the thin lines of blue and pink around his eyes to make them pop…and those fun little feathers on top of his head to add some texture to the whole deal.

All together:

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They made it to my partner with all their embellishments intact, and had me envisioning an entire installation of felt Muppet portraits…

Thanks for looking! 🙂

(with apologies to Paul Simon)

“Your problem is trying to be too nice,” she said to me.

“You’ll find it easier if you’ll only be snarky.

It’s just the simplest way to get yourself set free –

Just use snarky ways to leave your lover.”

She said, “Some people think that ‘snarky’ equals ‘rude’.

In fact, some puritans would have it labelled ‘lewd’.

But nuts to them!  I say, who needs their attitude?

Embrace those snarky ways to leave your lover.”

CHORUS

Just tell him, “Nope, dope.”

“Can you not, Scott?”

“Would you go away, hey,

And let me be.”

I said, “No way, Jay!”

“OMG, ewww, Lou.”

What else can I say, hey,

Except for, “Bite me.”

She said, “Don’t let your conscience tell you that it’s wrong.

I hope you’ll see the light before I end this song.”

I said, “That’s great and all, but won’t it take too long

To learn these snarky ways…?”

She said, “Just try to find your inner snark tonight,

And I believe that your man-child will be gone without a fight.”

And then she left me, and I realized she probably was right

‘Bout using snarky ways to leave your lover.

(repeat CHORUS)

Soooo, I signed up for the Be My Snarky Valentine swap on Craftster, after having to sit out the Christmas edition due to having about a dozen other things to try to get done.  But all I really have to do on Valentine’s Day is show up to work (because it’s a weekday, not because I work in a Valentine-specific industry), so I figured I could swing this one.  We each had to craft one small, snarky item plus one snarky card for our partner.

While I typically find Valentine’s Day a bit annoying (and hence the appeal of a snarky swap), I’ve always liked the aesthetic of conversation hearts.  Heck, I don’t even mind eating them, although they tend toward chalky.  I’ve even been known to paint my nails in the same colours and stage ridiculous manicure shoots at my desk:

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(Seriously, what did we do before smartphones?  How did we document the inanity?)

So it seemed like a no-brainer for me to incorporate them into my snarky swap package, somehow.  Fortunately, my partner said she likes pastels, so I thought a mini felt garland might be in order.

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Each heart is about 3 inches across at the widest points – I didn’t think to measure them – and are spaced 4 inches apart, with 6 inches to the hanging loop on each side.  I cut out two hearts of each colour and then applied fusible interfacing to one before sketching on my snarky sentiments to embroider.  Once they all said something, I sandwiched the ribbon between the two hearts, and blanket-stitched around each heart to secure the ribbon in place.

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I’m also a little particular about the colours being in the proper spectrum order, or at least as close as you can get.

Because I’m a cross-stitcher at heart, that’s the approach I used for my card.

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I had some sparkly white Aida left over from my mom’s cat ornaments which was just perfect for my background.

Whatever your Valentine’s Day brings, I hope it’s better than Ralph’s. 🙂

…my true love gave to me a chalkboard ode to coffee!

I finished this at around 2:00 PM on Christmas Eve, but between washing it, framing it, and wrapping the collection of gifts that sat there mocking me, there was no way this was getting posted.

Back in the summer, I was wandering through Michaels with a friend – I can’t remember what he was looking for – when I darted down the needlework aisle to see if they had anything interesting.  Oh, and Michaels?  Your needlework “aisle” is a joke.

Due to the craptacular nature of their selection, I really didn’t find much of note, but he zeroed in on a clearance kit.  “Ooh!  If I buy this, will you stitch it for me?”  Gaah.  I hate that question, but like him enough to shrug my shoulders and nod.  It wasn’t a terribly sophisticated or complicated design, and although it was on black aida, I figured I could handle it, and then somewhere along the line decided it would make an excellent Christmas present for him despite the fact that I had four other pieces to finish.

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I just realized that because of the angle at which the picture was taken, you can’t see the solid white border along the right side, but it’s there.

Now, while I discovered when I stitched this that black aida isn’t as terrible as I remembered, it’s quite something else when the cheap kit gives you a piece of fabric with barely 2″ of clearance around the edges of the pattern, making it difficult if not impossible to grip the fabric with your Q-Snap when you get to the outside edges.  Had this been a generous cut with better Q-Snap tension, I suspect it would have been finished ages ago.  Also, the white floss ran completely out well before I was anywhere near finished – and I had triple-checked the instructions so I know that even the backstitch was to be done in two strands and not one.  Luckily, I had some white floss left over from a different kit which filled the need nicely.  Had it not been December 21-ish when I ran out, the company would have been getting a nasty letter from me.

Now that it’s done, and I can breathe again, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  He was thrilled when he opened it yesterday, so mission accomplished.

I hope Santa was good to everybody.  Thanks for another great year! 🙂

…my true love gave to me a hoop that says “Vive le hockey!”

What do you give the guy who has, on different occasions, had this cake and this scarf?  A little hoop-framed Habs logo!  Honestly, I have let many Father’s Days/birthdays/Christmases pass without doing this – why didn’t I do it sooner?

And also, why didn’t I do it sooner?  Thursday and Friday found me stitching at work on my breaks.  This was not the first time, and will likely not be the last, but whyyyyy?!  (Also, for anyone keeping score, the lighting at this desk is not quite as good as it was at the last desk when I last tried this two years ago.  White thread on white fabric hates wonky lighting.  However, if this is the only downside to the job, I honestly can’t complain.)

I found the pattern on Etsy – the download included four different sizes, but I chose the smallest which I was able to fit into a four-inch hoop, painted by a kind soul who took pity on my last-minute frenzy and pitched in.

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Just one more present to go now – the race is on!

Thanks for looking! 🙂

…my true love gave to me: a triumvirate of cats for the tree!

Back when I got my first cat – that is, my first cat I adopted on my own as an apparently responsible-looking adult, and not a carryover from my childhood – I celebrated her first Christmas by buying one of those commemorative yearly ornaments from Hallmark, and slipped her picture into it to give to my mom.  Aawww!  Grandkitten’s first Christmas!

By the next year, she had a younger sister, and this meant either a) Photoshopping the two into the same picture, or b) being lucky enough to get a shot where they were sitting side-by-side and not trying to beat the living crap out of one another.  And then a few years after that, my parents adopted their own furry bundle of joy.  It seemed weird to give them an ornament with a picture of my cats but not one with theirs, so yay, Photoshop!  Also, some of Hallmark’s offerings had been not-so-cute over the years, so there had been a year or two with no ornament from the furkids.

This year, I decided to do something completely custom and stitch an ornament for each cat.  I found these patterns on Etsy and knew I could make them work:

Cat Ornaments 1-2

Of course, the markings aren’t quite right, so I had to change the patterns up a little bit.  My muses (or mew-ses)?

Yes, apparently he’s offended by the pink sparkly ball on the Christmas tree.  I’ve given up trying to understand him.

For the most part, I altered the patterns as I went along without a point of reference, but the black-and-white has such asymmetrical markings that I used a picture to make sure she looked right immortalized in thread.

Cat Ornaments 2-2

I didn’t use a ton of backstitch, partly to expedite the process and partly to keep them more organic-looking and less cartoonish.  They’re framed in 3″ wooden embroidery hoops painted gold, and ready to be displayed.

Thanks for looking – 11 days to go! 🙂

We’ve established by now that I love Halloween, right?  Okay, good.  And cats?  And cross-stitch?  And most things retro?  Then you may be able to guess how excited I am about this finish!

I bought this pattern from Sastuma Street’s Etsy shop last year (at the same time I bought “Sorry We’re Dead“), but didn’t have time to stitch it before last Halloween.  That became my goal for this year!

My take on “Halloween Cat” (although there are in fact three of them in the picture) varies slightly from the pattern instructions.  The model was stitched on 32-count fabric over two threads; I used 28 count.  The model piece’s fabric is periwinkle, but I opted for this gorgeous hand-dyed “African Violet” I found at my local needlework shop – which, in spots, is a perfect match to DMC 554.  Oh, and rather than use the recommended DMC 3819 for the cat’s and kittens’ eyes, I seized the opportunity to use neon green from the same package I got the colours I used for “Sorry We’re Dead” last year.

Finished, and ready for washing:

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In its shadow box:

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A gratuitous back shot, just because:

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I thought it would be fun to take progress shots and set them to music.  I’m weird that way.  Enjoy!

It’s now framed and on display in the living room…at least for a few more hours.  Oh, and see what I mean about the fabric matching the thread?

Purple Match

As always, thanks for looking – and Happy Halloween!

I started my Halloween crafting early this year (as in, August).  While browsing Craftster one day, I saw sign-ups for a Vintage Halloween Swap and promptly submitted my information.  (It’s so much easier to rush the season if you’ve got a whole gang of Halloween-crazed crafters with you.  In fact, I’d argue this was hardly rushing it at all, considering some grocery stores are selling eggnog.  Yes, the Christmas beverage.)

My partner indicated she didn’t have a specific era of vintage in mind – which made my job simultaneously easier and more difficult – but mentioned that she was setting up a Halloween tree in her house this year and would like something to hang on it.

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I found the patterns for these guys on Etsy.  The set also included a cat and a piece of candy corn (neither of which were included in my partner’s preferred motifs).  Their original size was approximately 2 1/2 – 3″ at the widest point; I scanned each pattern piece at 150% to get a slightly more substantial finished product.  It’s really hard to see all the details in the photo, but trust me when I say:

  • the jack o’lantern’s features and the bat’s eyes are sparkly
  • the bat’s wing veins and blanket stitching are metallic purple (the better to glint off the Halloween tree lights, if there are any)
  • the ghost’s blanket stitching plus the bat’s fangs might look benign, but in fact glow in the dark.  I did not get a shot of them glowing, sorry.

The pompom garland was a happy eleventh-hour addition.  I was cruising the store for some little extras to tuck into her package when I happened upon bags of Halloween-themed pompoms, and couldn’t resist them.

They made a cute Halloween tree starter-set, but I was concerned that nothing had a truly vintage feel, which is why I started browsing Pinterest for vintage embroidery patterns.

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Because doesn’t everyone need a hand-embroidered tea towel?  I kept this pretty simple, with backstitch for pretty much everything except a little satin stitch to give the carving a warm, glow-y feeling.

It was a spook-tacular (sorry!) start to the Halloween season; stay tuned for more.

Thanks for looking! 🙂